Fresh & Easy - New Van Nuys Location
As anyone familiar with Van Nuys willl tell you, this burb is usually not the go-to spot for anything remotely interesting or unique...unless you're in need of a good marble and tile store, in which case, even there, I think North Hollywood has us beat. So color me surprised to find a Fresh and Easy opening up on Sepulveda and Vanowen. It's housed in what used to be the most depressing, sullen, gloomy, and miserable Ralphs known to all of mankind. This is, most decidedly, an improvement. Also, it is an area very much in need of a decent, local grocery store, and, judging by today's grand opening, that need has been met.
The fare is what I expected from what I've read here and elsewhere. There are plenty of pre-made meals, and most of them looked quite appetizing. The Husband sampled the meatloaf and mashed potatoes tonight, and gave it a thumbs up. Interestingly enough, he felt the need to add a sprinkle of salt...salt being the one thing that is usually not lacking from store-bought meals.
We'll see how the turkey dinner goes tomorrow. It does look tasty.
I appreciated the layout of the store, especially the shelves that are less than six feet high, giving the admittedly small space a larger feel. Of course, it was packed today since it was the opening, but even then I was able to negotiate the aisles fairly easily. The meats looked quite good, and I was impressed as well by the bakery, pastries, and dessert selection. I know that some have made an issue out of the fact that the produce (bananas being the exception) is all prepackaged. I suppose if you only need one tomato or one potato, this would be a drawback. But I found that the selection was very fresh and in non-Costco sizes. For instance, I really only needed one beefsteak tomato, but, for the price, I was happy to buy two. I'll find something to do with the other one. Pre-packed fresh herbs are generously proportioned and quite reasonably priced.
There was a plethora of staff, and they were all friendly. Of course, this was the first day. Will they remain happy campers? Time will tell. The self-checkput was a cinch, and quite speedy.
There's no wine or beer at this location yet, and apparently some neighborhood committees want to keep it that way. Again, time will tell. Selection on some items was rather low. I, for instance, would have been happy to see a better choice in pasta, but I can easily get by on what was there.
I can say this with all certainty. The peach-apricot bar cookies are INSANELY good.
Oh, and the parking? Not perfect, but a lot better than any TJs I've been too.
They are opening a new location in Oak Park, but at the glacial speed the construction is moving at I don't expect the store to be open in my lifetime. Considering that they are only refurbishing an existing space, one has to wonder why it's taking them a year and counting?
I've been going to the Fresh and Easy Market in La Habra for a while now, and have recently starting going to the new one in Pico Rivera (near my office), and I have a few recommendations. Here are my 2 cents worth:
creamy cilantro dressing (next to the lettuce)
chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate shavings on top (the regular sized ones), the large ones tend to be dried out.
roasted pumpkin seeds
oatmeal orange cranberry cookies (7 in a package)
They also carry a large selection of Soydelicious "ice cream" in bars, fudgesicles, and pints. Not too earth shattering for those who live near a Whole Foods, but if you live in these parts and you have an allergy to milk, you know how difficult it is to find these products. God I love the grapefruit sorbet at WF, but I digress.
I've been accused of being a "fan-boy" on this topic, and I happily accept that mantle. Some of my favorite items... the hummus, although I'm not crazy about the roasted garlic flavor the others are great...."Gourmet India" naans and pitas. Especially like the curry flavor. I stock up whenever they're half off and then they toast up great in the toaster oven....Their own-brand greek yogurt is as good as any, .... fresh meats and seafoods (especially diver scallops) are high quality. ... some of the soups are quite good. The mushroom soup works well as a sauce, too....Small size gelatos and sorbets...(sourced out of Berto's in Arizona see article link.) Frozen blueberries (plump, 1# for just over $3.) I am equidistant from TJ's and F&E and at least 90% of the time I go to F&E. I give them props for locating beyond the TJ's yuppie-demographic line.
Thumbs up: Kalamata olive & Ciabatta breads, flan in desert section, large scallops, rack of lamb, raw chicken breasts, fillet mignon, strawberries, pluots, nectarines, taters, frozen panko coated shrimp & crab cakes, dried apricots, sea salted nuts, brie, large cooked shrimp, fresh soups, peppers, F&E canned lentil soup
So-so: Green beans, pea pods, apples, vine tomatoes, peaches, bay scallops, swordfish & halibut, chicken meals, sandwiches, sushi, fresh salads, mesclun/rocket salad mixes, baguettes
Thumbs down: F&E brand yogurt, marinated cooked chicken strips (soggy), raspberries (no match for Driscoll's), all mexican stuff including burritos, enchiladas & such
So, your faves & downers please.
Drunken Goat Cheese in cheese aisle
The taste of the donut I had
FE Giant White beans
FE garbanzo beans
FE tuna in the can
By the banana pricing
FE packaged sandwich meats
Downer: I wish the selection were a mite better, and they didn't overpackage the produce so.
I finally checked out both this and the Manhattan Bch. locations and picked up just a couple of items. One of my lads, aka BreadBoy, did like the unsliced French bread. Overall the stock did seem 'Fresh' but for me there was way too much 'Easy'. But folks do like that so it is probably a good business plan. Be sure to check prices though. Bean Sprouts were $2.07 for a 10 oz. pre packed bag at F&E. They were 0.59/lb. down the street at 99 Ranch Mkt. Over three times the price!
I another fan of F & E and their $5.00 off coupon. I go once a week and get their sliced pineapple, presliced cooked chicken, shrimp cerviche, tortilla chips and the non fat milk. My girls actually prefer that brand over the other brands.
We tried the butter chicken and the meatloaf both of which we thought were pretty good. The carnitas was okay as there are other places that you can get a much better quality. Overall I do like the produce at F & E and shop there each week along with TJ's.
They are owned by Brit supermarket chain Tesco, Cinnamonkitten, not TJ's.
I like the VN store, it's close to me, clean, well run, and easy to use for some good stuff. Can't beat the price on store brand garbanzo's or white beans below 10 cals a serving. I like that. The prepped food is good, they have a better cheese selection than a lot of stores and they sell naan in the read aisle like it ain't no big thing.
Moochia, you underestimate and undervalue Van nuys. LOTS of good chow places and markets. On Sepulveda alone, there is Jons that fresh produce place, a spice/nut wholesaler, Dr Hoggly Woggly's. Pho 99 and the other pho place, 99 Ranch Asian Market, Hong Kong 88, a nearby Kyushu Ramen (right off on SW), Zankou Chicken, Sam Woo BBQ, and more and more!
Around VN you can find Vallarta markets, El Katracho Honduran food, USA Donuts, Valley Hye Armenian Market, My Cakes Bakery, In and Out, Empenadas Place, Armenian Pizza, Lemongrass, Pico Pica Rico (I never get the name right), and tons and tons more.
I have no clue as to why you would say, "this burb is usually not the go-to spot for anything remotely interesting or unique"
Yeah, I agree. But I do live close by, so it works out.
As for mundane VN, there are plenty of disgusting fast food joints for the boring people. About 10 McD's, a Wendys or Two, El Pollo Loco, Taco Smell, Carls , Subway, KFC, and so on. Plus about a billion really awful Sushi places.
My Brother in Law hits all of these. Last time he and my sister dog sat, they left the stinking trash from almost every one of them in my garbage can for when I got back, and I had left a list of fabulous eating spots! I was ashamed to be seen with the wrappers.